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What Is “Frozen Shoulder”?

Woman With Shoulder Pain Stock photo

It’s not surprising that frozen shoulder is an injury quite familiar to our workers’ compensation attorneys, as many jobs require workers to use their arms for heavy and/or repetitive lifting. Putting out a hand to brace a fall is another common cause of a shoulder injury.

Shoulder Injuries Cause The Most Missed Work Days

A 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study found that shoulder injuries accounted for about twenty-six days of missed work. This figure was higher than data representing injuries to other parts of the body. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) found that in the period 2008-2012, claims for lost work days for the majority of body part injuries were down by approximately 13.9 percent. The exception was for arm and shoulder injuries, where the figure was basically flat.

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder is the more recognizable name given to adhesive capsulitis, a painful condition which often develops in people who are recovering from another injury. The shoulder joint gradually stiffens and motion is reduced – placing the hand behind the back or stretching up becomes next to impossible. The pain can interfere with daily activities and disturb sleep.

There is a capsule of connective tissue encasing the bones, tendons, and ligaments in the shoulder. When this capsule thickens, a frozen shoulder is the result. It’s a condition that usually develops gradually and consists of three stages:

  • Freezing: Over a varying time range of six weeks to nine months, the shoulder joint stiffens.
  • Frozen:  The shoulder remains in a frozen state for four to six months.
  • Thawing: Joint movement gradually returns over a period of six months to two years.

Because of this lengthy healing time, many workers cannot go back to their old jobs. And, in very serious cases, the shoulder never fully recovers.

Who is at Risk?

Frozen shoulder tends to affect adults over forty, especially women. Injuries or procedures where individuals have reduced mobility for extended time periods can also lead to this condition. And, with the joints of an aging workforce wearing away, older workers are also at risk.

What is the Treatment?

The main course of treatment involves physical therapy. To reduce pain, numbing medications are sometimes injected into the shoulder joint. In difficult cases, surgery may be carried out to loosen the joint capsule.

Columbia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

Insurance companies often deny benefits by maintaining that a shoulder injury occurred outside of work, or that arthritis or a preexisting condition is the cause. If you have been denied compensation for your workplace shoulder injury, please contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Harris and Graves. We can help you to collect the benefits you deserve.